Former Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) and former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday warned Nigerians to avoid the repeat of the 1966 coup and the tragedies that followed.
The two elderstatesmen sounded the warning at the launch of the biography of the late Brig. Zakariya Maimalari at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
The book was authored by Haruna Yahaya Poloma with the title: “The First Regular Combatant: Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari”.It was reviewed by Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (rtd).
The book presentation was attended by eminent Nigerians and serving military officers among whom was the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai.
Maimalari was among top military officers killed during the nation’s first military coup on January 15, 1966.
Obasanjo, who gave reasons for some of the decisions taken by his government in his second coming as civilian president in 1999, said the topmost lesson for Nigerians to learn from unfolding events was that the nation has had enough of tragedies.
He said he decided to retire Maimalari’s son, who was the then Military Administrator of Jigawa State for certain reasons.
Obasanjo said: “What lesson can we learn? The lesson we can learn is that we have had enough tragedies in this country.”
“I have no apology, but I have explanation. It’s because it’s necessary to stop this sort of things that took the life of your father prematurely, that we had to take the decision that all those who have tasted power that they should never have tasted, that we should ease them out of the Army, so that we can have an Army that is free from political aberration.
“So far, since 1999, it seems that we have got it right. Let us hope that we continue to get it right and learn that Nigeria has had enough of bloodshed, enough of sacrifices by those victims, that Nigeria deserves peace, unity and progress,” Obasanjo asserted.
Gowon said: “Several of our institutions have been poisoned mostly by the virus of corruption. Our people are in pain and require deliverance. But the rot is not all round.”
Gowon stated that Maimalarienjoyed steady professional advance and was favourably mentioned as one of the likely successors to ultimate authority on the departure of the colonial masters.
“Many things happened and many things failed to happen. He (Maimalari) was denied the ultimate prize and this denial produced widespread consternation.
“No one less deserved the sort of death visited on Brigadier Maimalari. I have sometimes wondered just what might have been had he survived the mutiny of that night.
“To my mind, Maimalari would perhaps have used his huge influence to re-establish civic order and governance. Perhaps in which case, there might not have been any further killings.
“Perhaps, maybe in the absence of the killings, the violence which became part of our nation’s vernacular would have been absent.
“Perhaps, there would have been no Biafra, no Ojukwu, no Gowon as we know them; no war and our democratic governments would have grown in stature as vehicles of popular service.”
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, said: Often, the Nigerian landscape has been disfigured by appalling examples of poor leadership and bad governance.
“So dominant has this been that our youth can be misled into feeling that there is a total absence of idealism and heroism in our society.
“Yet, nothing can be further from the truth. In our past and in our present, we can find exceptional examples of selfless service and notable deeds with which we can inspire in our youth.”
Osinbajo said: “The example of Maimalari, particularly, his growth from humble beginnings, through diligence and hard work, to the dizzy heights of public service success is worth sharing. History can thus be a useful tool in the propagation of good examples.
“History as a subject in our schools has become fairly infamous, with students often feeling that the subject has no practical value.
“Yet, without a grounding in history, how do we know we who we are, where we come from, and more importantly, as a people, where we are going to?
“As a government, we have been concerned with the decline in the study of history and this has seen us recover history from the place where it has been ignored for too long and placed it back firmly in school curriculum.”
Also, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai paid glowing tributes to Maimalari and hailed the efforts of the book’s author for the documentation of events in the past.